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Exploring in the Chevrolet Trailblazer

For the explorer: Chevrolet’s Trailblazer.

If you and your loved ones are in the habit of exploring, you will know that a small hatchback or sedan might not get the job done for your needs. In most cases, a large vehicle is required in order to fit the luggage, the tents, the skottel-braai and of course the people. This is where a car like the Chevrolet Trailblazer comes in. With a high ground clearance, mansion like space and a good old reliable diesel in the front, it can make exploring look like a walk in the park.

How does it drive?

Being a large vehicle, the driver needs to be aware of the fact that this is no city car when it comes to size. A class in parking may be needed to learn how to park the car in small shopping mall parking spaces. Also if you happen to not be blessed with a basketball players’ height, get used to plummeting to the ground each time you get out of your Trailblazer. Besides that, the car drives very well, comfortable enough for day to day activities and of course very comfortable on the open road, presuming this is where you will spend most of your time in the car.

What we loved most about the way the Trailblazer drives, is how the car didn’t suffer too much from body roll, which is good for tackling sweeping bends on far away roads. The 2.8 litre Duramax diesel engine fitted in our test unit didn’t disappoint us one bit as well. The 500 Nm of  torque was delivered in a timeous manner and the automatic gearbox is well mated to the engine too. Interestingly, one would not expect a car of this size to use a 4 cylinder engine, but times have clearly changed and the engine in the Trailblazer is in no way underpowered for the mass of the car.

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Practicality.

One of the most appealing qualities about the Chevrolet trailblazer, has got to be vast amount of useable space that the car offers. The car is a real seven seater vehicle, with seven adults being able to sit comfortably in the car. Some seven seat vehicles merely pose as “seven seaters” but in reality the last two seats are as big as those found in a 911 Porsche.

Up front the dashboard in the Trailblazer is not exactly fancy, it’s more functional than luxurious. That being said, the lack of expensive finishes has not impaired things like connectivity since the MyLink infotainment system allows you to pair your cell phone and enjoy all your road trip music.

One cannot judge the Chevrolet Trailblazer on not having a premium feel, instead the car has a boy/girl next door appeal to it. It’s not meant for pavement climbing, it’s meant for proper exploring. For its purpose, the lack of low profile tyres and shiny wheels makes perfect sense because African roads and low profile tyres should never be in the same sentence, nor should burr wood trim and mud.

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Verdict.

After considering what Chevrolet’s Trailblazer is built for, one realises just why this car makes a whole lot of sense. Add all that to a starting price of R 451 000 and the car starts to make even more sense for an explorer or someone with an extended family. All that space and practicality for that starting price? We say for what you get, the Chevrolet Trailblazer is indeed a bargain.

 

New Volkswagen Caddy driven: Surprisingly fun.

Midlands meander meets the new Volkswagen Caddy.

As we were driving through the Valley of a thousand hills on a beautiful Durban morning, the road ahead swept and as we turned the corner, we noticed the green lush scenery swooshing by.  As we turned into another corner and applied some power, “this Caddy is fun!” we thought. Sorry what, a Volkswagen Caddy being fun? Yes you read correctly.  It’s not the kind of vehicle you would imagine having fun in on the road, but the Caddy 4 took us by surprise.

Our test run of this vehicle started at King Shaka International Airport with our destination being deep in the Natal Midlands, a beautiful countryside area with some of the best scenery in the country. It’s the type of place you would imagine enjoying a hot hatch or sports car on, due to its twisty roads. The VW caddy though, was also very enjoyable. We drove two Caddy’s, the first being a manual 81kW 2.0TDI. Let’s be honest, 81kW is not much power but that  being said, the Caddy 4 did not feel underpowered at all, mainly due to the torque from the turbocharger.

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The VW caddy 4 comes under the commercial vehicle range, but it doesn’t really feel like a commercial vehicle. For starters the interior is clean and crisp, extremely spacious and stylish. The steering wheel felt and looked like something you would find in a passenger car. Most noticeably the large infotainment system finished things off nicely, a very nice cabin indeed.

When it comes to handling, one can turn in quickly into a corner and you don’t end up with a heap of body roll. This vehicle has the capacity of carrying eight people and considering all of that, one wouldn’t expect it to handle very well, but it does a good job. The car took the Midlands’ sweeping bends in its stride, it’s safe to say that this is not a boring commercial vehicle at all.

Heading back to Durban the following day after a fantastic evening, we had the chance to drive the other more powerful automatic 2.0 TDI. The manual vehicle was good, but we wouldn’t recommend it over the 103kW DSG variant.  The extra 21kW really makes a difference, when cruising and overtaking it gets up to speed that much more faster, making for an easier and more comfortable drive. The DSG gearbox is smooth and precise, the Sport mode was also perfect for the windy route. You will have to part with an extra R40K for the DSG gearbox, but it’s definitely worth it.

At the end of the day this is a commercial vehicle and one sees that due to how Volkswagen have made it incredibly easy to remove all the rear seats. A simple pull on a lever and the whole seat system slides out, fantastic if you need to load equipment or you’re going away for the weekend. Adding to the versatility is the option of either a tailgate or twin doors, each come with there own advantages and based on user preferences.

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The Caddy 4 also features some nifty technology systems, such as driver fatigue systems, reversing camera, advanced infotainment and our favourite, anti-collision braking. This is a system which applies full braking power after the vehicle has been in an accident, which helps eliminate the chance of a secondary collision.

There are various models of  the Caddy ranging from a stripped down panel-van and Crew bus aimed at the commercial market, to the Trendline and Alltrack aimed at the more private user. Longer wheel-base Maxi versions are also available which differentiate themselves by adding a generous 469mm of length.

Overall we enjoyed our experience with new Volkswagen Caddy, we were pleasantly surprised with the comfort levels in the car. The exterior looks fantastic and it really wouldn’t look out of place sitting next to passenger Volkswagens which are more sporty. It looks more like a sibling rather than an ugly cousin and fits into the entire range well.

It’s also worth noting that VW South Africa have not been affected by the emissions saga at all so don’t let that discourage you from buying a diesel. The panel vans start at the R230 000 mark, crew buses come in at a similar starting price of R226 000 while the Trendline and Alltrack will cost you around R350 000 depending on specification.

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The low-down on the new Porsche 911

What’s changed with the new Porsche 911?

When you hear the three digits 9-1-1, a few things may come to mind. Sadly it’s the date of one of the worst terrorist attacks the world has ever seen. It’s also a popular emergency services number. For some though, the numbers mean something good, something exciting.

The best thing that I personally relate these three digits to, is the Porsche 911. Interestingly Porsche had originally named the first vehicle the “901” but Peugeot complained because of their numbering system which had a 0 in the middle, so Porsche replaced the 0 with a 1 and a legend was born.

My earliest memories of a Porsche 911 was my father squeezing me into the front boot space and closing the lid to show our neighbour that it could actually hold some kind of capacity. From a young age the 911 was my favourite, I even named my first pet rabbit “Porsche” but sadly it escaped and then got eaten by a fox.

I digress, the 911 have been produced since 1963 and the 911 Turbo since 1975. It is agreed that this range of sports cars is up there as one of the greatest of all time.  Since the start, the core of  the “911” has never changed, a rear engine setup with 6 cylinders. There was a time in history where I lost a little love for the 911, I felt like they could not get the design of the front end right, I didn’t like it. In recent years though, with the return of the classic round headlights, the design stole my heart again.  Now in 2016 Porsche have updated its current 911 range and the changes are as follows:

What’s new?

The new Porsche 911 is as beautiful as ever, and the rear end has an even sharper and more aggressive look. From a design point of view, these vehicles haven’t really changed much over time. They’ve evolved in small ways but as always the 6 cylinder horizontal engine is stuck right in the back where the boot normally is. Besides subtle design changes, the engines are where the biggest changes lie with turbochargers adding extra boost to the car. Many enthusiasts have been in two minds about this move since many loved the razor sharp nature of the normally aspirated car.

Options have not changed with two variants being available in the Carrera range. The normal Carrera is the baby and the S is the upgrade. The standard 911 Carrera will push 272 kW (380 Bhp) and the Carrera S supplies 309 kW (420BHP).  Another change has to do with the drive-train options available in the new 911. A client has the option between rear wheel drive and a four-wheel drive setup. All these updates will definitely change the way the new car handles on the road and more importantly, how the car put’s its power down.

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Wait, there’s more.

Another new option is the Sports Exhaust System which apart from allowing the twin turbo motor to shout a little louder, the two twin tail pipes are replaced by two single pipes located in the centre of the vehicle with a small space in between. One more noteworthy point is that the Porsche Active Suspension Management, (an electronic damping control system called “PASM”) is now fitted as standard on all models. It’s evolved a little, but definitely for the better.

How much will it cost?

A 911 Carrera will set you back at least R1.2 Bar, whereas the Carrera 4S Cab will start to hurt you at a minimum of R1,6 Million. You can double that figure for the top dog 911 Turbo S. It may sound like a lot, but it’s all relative. Some may even say it’s a small price to pay for one of the most iconic sports cars ever built. Long live the Porsche 911.

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Isuzu KB300 DTEQ LX: It’s Bakkie time Boet

We drive Isuzu South Africa’s KB300 DTEQ LX

Some countries refer to it as a “pickup”, “truck” or a “ute” but here in sunny South Africa, we call it a bakkie. This type of vehicle has been the back bone of many industries, servicing the needs of many businesses. Over time though, the bakkie has gone from being just a bouncy commercial vehicle with the bare necessities, to a fully fledged road car with softer suspension, leather seats and smart infotainment systems. One such bakkie is the current Isuzu KB Series. With humble beginnings and basic looks, this pickup has grown to be a good looking and diverse vehicle which easily transitions between being a workhorse and a road car.

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Work and play:

The Isuzu KB comes in three different cab configurations, a single cab, extended cab and of course the family friendly double cab. We had the pleasure of testing the extended cab KB300 D-TEQ LX 4×4. The intelligent drivetrain fitted in the 4×4 allows for the driver to engage the front axle through a dial when a more challenging terrain presents itself. This is especially useful for buyers who need a car that can go off-road on a whim and with a towing capacity of 3.5 tonnes, the Isuzu KB is also capable of heavy duty work.

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Although softer on the eyes, the Isuzu KB is no lightweight. Traditional bakkie drivers have always preferred larger displacement, so the KB300’s 3.0 litre which develops 130 kW/ 380 Nm produces enough grunt to keep all the “boets” happy. Mated to a 5 speed manual gearbox, torque is readily available. A KB250 is also available with a smaller 2.5 litre engine (100 kW/320 Nm) for those not needing the extra oomph.

Does it drive like a car or a bakkie?

No matter how hard manufacturers try and make their pickups’ more car-like, a bakkie will always drive like a bakkie. This is especially the case when there is no load at the rear, the car will always have a bounce to it. That being said, the levels of refinement in these cars have reached a happy medium between a pair of blue overalls and a business suit. To say that the Isuzu KB300 is not comfortable would be a lie, it drives very well and we personally loved the sheer height of it on the road. For a shorter person, the step bar proved very useful upon climbing into the cabin and the “suicide doors” in the extended cab made it easy to load and unload tools/groceries/animals into the back.

The large load box in the extended cab is also ideal for a multitude of applications. Whether you’re lugging concrete or moving house, there is ample space all the time. Of course to keep your load box scuff free, a good rubberising would be advised.

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 Verdict:

The extended cab Isuzu KB300 D-TEQ is a very capable vehicle that falls smack bam in the middle of those not looking for a double cab but need an extra bit of space. At the same time, Isuzu have not sacrificed creature comforts in the car, making it more of an all rounder. Those creature comforts will cost you R451 800 though, but some may reason that for a “best of both worlds” car, it’s not too badly priced. So for those with an active lifestyle and a need for a work bakkie, the KB300 extended cab is a good choice in its segment.

Jerry Seinfeld gets coffee with President Obama.

Coffee with the President:

Jerry Seinfeld is best known for his 90’s comedy show that put him on the map. He is also known for his various stand up comedy shows that he has done over years. You may have also heard that Jerry Seinfeld is a car lover, so much so that over the years he has amassed himself quite the collection. You can see some of the cars he has here. Not too long ago he started a show that interviews comedians and prominent figures in the world whilst driving them in a specific car. He takes them out for coffee and asks them various questions about their lives etc etc. Well quite recently, he managed to pull off quite an interesting interview with the President of USA, check out the video below to see how it went. It turns out President Barack Obama is quite the Corvette fan. Any petrol head will agree that nothing brings car lovers together better than a simple drive and a coffee.

Volvo South Africa’s new S60 Polestar is here: Say hello to Superman.

Volvo South Africa’s new beast

Clark Kent is the character that most people forget about in the Superman story, with good reason too. He doesn’t do anything that makes you say “wow that is amazing”. All he does is unbutton his shirt, revealing a large “S” logo and then the real action happens. Off with the glasses and the boring suit, and on with the red and blue spandex and out comes a superhero.

The thing is, poor Clark Kent is probably a good person, we just never get to hear about him because he blends into humanity like everybody else. He is likely to be an excellent employee that pays his taxes and helps old ladies cross the street. If the creators of Superman had focused on Clark Kent, though, the story of Superman would have probably not been so famous. People want action, drama and a hero to look up to.

The Volvo S60 finds itself in a Clark Kent-like scenario; it is a good quality sedan with a brand fixated on safety behind it. The car is comfortable, the engines in the range are good, and reliability is not a problem. So why isn’t the S60 the car everybody talks about?

Well like Clark Kent, the car doesn’t do anything spectacular, it doesn’t “wow” you. It’s conservative, understated and if it were a human, it would probably pay its taxes too. So what would Volvo need to do to make the S60 exciting? A small company in Sweden called Polestar have recently been bought by Volvo to officially add spice to the S60. The result? Volvo’s very own Superman. Say hello to the Volvo S60 Polestar edition.

What has changed?
To jump right into the meaty part, the Polestar edition Volvo S60 produces 258 kW and 500 Nm from a 3.0 litre turbocharged in-line six cylinder engine. Yes, the glasses are off, and it’s time to save the world. The new Volvo S60 Polestar is really good. Polestar has gone through a tremendous effort to turn a safety focused sedan into a high-performance vehicle that is usable in almost every scenario. It comes as no surprise then that the Polestar is running a 4WD Haldex suspension system. That same system also has 80% stiffer springs than the standard Volvo S60. That being said, the vehicle is no back breaker, it’s firm but comfortable.

To stop all that power very quickly, the brakes on the Polestar have been upgraded to a Brembo/Polestar set and the 20-inch wheels wear sleek Michelin Pilot Sport rubber. Visually the Volvo S60 Polestar is easy to differentiate between the standard S60, partly because it is Smurf blue in colour. The other reason being that the car has different bumpers, wheels and aero, making it look more in tune with its superhero theme. It looks fantastic. Without even starting up that mighty powerplant in the front, the S60 Polestar sits quietly in the pits of Red Star Raceway, waiting to be opened up like a piece of bright blue candy.

How does it drive?
The power delivery from that sonorous six cylinder engine is linear and exciting. The twin-scroll turbocharging has made a great impact on the responsiveness of the engine. The gearbox in the Polestar is a six-speed automatic which allows you to hold a gear in manual mode. This has proved useful on the race track, and even though the gearbox is not the fastest unit out there, it gets the job done.

In a normal driving scenario, the transmission in the Polestar will be more than adequate, keeping true to Volvo’s goal of creating a car that can be used 365 days a year. With weather conditions changing so frequently, the use of a 4WD system in the car further adds to that sentiment. On the race track, the system worked very well under heavy pressure, allowing the vehicle to grip immensely through tight corners and chicanes. Understeer was very minimal in the car, instead, the S60 Polestar is very predictable and light on its feet on the road. So the modifications can clearly be seen and felt on the Polestar compared to the normal S60.

Verdict

This Volvo is still an S60 at the end of the day, and Polestar has not sacrificed comfort or practicality while developing this car. If anything, they have created something that can be used in the real world, something that makes sense.

The interior has a premium feel to it with nubuck leather and silver and chrome bits placed here and there. The vehicle is also spacious enough to drive the family along in it when you’re in Clark Kent mode.

Surprisingly, the Volvo S60 Polestar costs R735 000, which is cheaper than a BMW 340i with some spec on it. It doesn’t matter though because Volvo South Africa is only bringing in 28 units, and there are already sold.

The real question is, who would this car appeal to? That is always something to think about when a brand not known for something decides to explore a different side to their usual persona. The Polestar seems to be the car for the conservative who has a wild side to him/her. The kind of person who is calculated and precise. If Clark Kent were real, he would probably drive a Volvo S60 Polestar. For everyday life, the car is a normal S60, but when the time comes, and it’s time to unbutton that shirt, the S60 can quickly transform from Clark Kent to Superman.

The 411 on the new Honda NSX

What you need to know about the new Honda NSX.

The original Honda NSX was Honda’s first venture into performance engineering for road cars.  It was powered using the same VTEC technology that ran in the original McLaren-Honda F1 car.  The body, chassis and suspension were all manufactured in aluminium, the first of its kind. The shape and Cab-forward cockpit were inspired from an F-16 fighter jet. Further to this, a 3.0 litre V6 24 valve VTEC engine was dropped right in the middle of this lightweight machine, just like the F1 Car.

What made this vehicle extra special, though, was that before production the legendary one and only Ayrton Senna tested this car. He tweaked it to perfection, and at the end of his testing period, the chassis had been tightened by 50 percent. In the end, the Honda NSX was a road race machine with the approval of one of the best drivers to ever walk the earth.

And now, it is back. It seems fitting that just as McLaren and Honda have re-ignited their Legendary F1 Partnership, a new NSX is born.  This time it brings F1 inspired hybrid technology with three electric motors, one for each front wheel and a third to aid braking, gear shifting and acceleration.  These electric motors are assisting the main power pant, a mid-mounted Twin Turbo V6.  All in all, Honda claims over 550bhp with instantaneous torque. Sending drive to the wheels will be a new 9-speed dual clutch gearbox.

The chassis is very light, with a multi-material structure and has a very stiff carbon fibre floor. The vehicle also features four drive modes: Quiet – which can be driven using all-electric power for short distances, Sport & Sport + for a more positive vehicle and finally Track mode if you want to unleash the beast.

Honda’s goal for this vehicle is to have the excitement of the Ferrari 458 but for the price of a Porsche 911. This may seem like a tall order, but hopefully, they can pull it off.

The BMW X1: Redefining Space.

The new BMW X1 and its practical nature.

The BMW X1 is the car you buy if you want an SUV style vehicle, but don’t want the size or have the budget for an X3 or X5. The new X1 uses a similar configuration to the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer; it is front wheel drive. Something recently embraced by the BMW brand.

Firstly, it looks fantastic. It’s dynamic, sporty and remarkably spacious. BMW have been very clever with the new X1, the seating positions have been elevated, which means drivers and passengers have a better all round view, add this to larger window surfaces, and you get a spacious feel.

A great stand-out feature for the sporting person is the flat folding passenger seat, the backrest can be folded completely forward. The benefit of this is that any item up to 2.5 meters in length can be transported with ease. If you suddenly feel some beach vibes and want to take your longboard for a wave, no problem.  This fixes the issue of scraping and scratching the interior as you would usually try and force an object such as a surfboard at a slight angle into the vehicle. This also takes away the possibly of decapitation as the said object flies around the car at head height.

The rear seats control this method of using space well, with the pull of a small handle, the rear seating arrangement slides forwards and backwards. If you are heading on a road trip with friends, you can slide the seats back for extra legroom, but if you and a buddy are off to go diving on the coast, slide the seats forward and use the extra boot space for your gear. There is one downside to this; it enables your other half to have more room for shopping bags.

As always you have the classic BMW lines such as the Sport line, X line and M Sport line, with lots of optional extras such as the 8-inch navigation screen, Harmon Kardon loudspeaker system, reversing camera and so on. Engine choices range from S Drive 18i, S Drive 20i and the X Drive 20i and 25i.

Overall this is a smaller but spacious SUV, which is flexible and dynamic. It does not only suit families but young explorers who like to surf, ski and dive to name a few.

Six interesting facts about the DeLorean DMC-12.

Six interesting facts about the car from Back to the future.

1. The name of the car “DeLorean” is the last name of John DeLorean who owned the company that manufactured the car, DeLorean Motor Company.

2. Although DMC is an American company, the DeLorean DMC-12 was manufactured in Northern Ireland due to the fact that Northern Ireland Development Agency offered the company £100 Million toward the development of the car.

3. The DeLorean DMC-12 uses a 2.85-litre V6 engine by Peugeot-Renault-Volvo but it was originally intended to use a Wankel rotary motor.

4. All DeLorean DMC-12’s use a four wheel drive system and were said to handle very well.

5. The DeLorean Motor Company went bankrupt whilst John DeLorean was charged with drug trafficking when the company was already experiencing financial troubles. Even though the charges were dropped, the scandal created bad press for the businessman and it was too late to revive the business’ reputation.

6. After the insolvency of the DeLorean Motor Company, there was an abundance of parts left over from the business, so a Texas-based company acquired the rights to the name DMC and all the parts. The new DMC now sells restored DeLorean DMC 12’s with original vin numbers on them. These cars are available on an order basis to clients.

BMW M2: It’s revealed and it’s hardcore.

BMW’s M2 has been revealed: Here’s the breakdown.

Specs:

  • 3.0 Litre Twin Powered Turbo
  • 272 kW/ 465 Nm (500 Nm overboost)
  • 0-100 km/h: 4.4 Seconds (manual) 4.2 Seconds (7 Speed DCT)

Overview:

The new BMW M2 is the successor of the legendary 1M Coupe launched a few years ago by BMW. This car has one aim, the aim to please. The 1M lived up to that aim by offering 250 kW version of the N54 Twin Turbocharged 3.0 litre straight six engine. The new M2 uses the Twin Scroll N55 engine that has been enhanced by M Gmbh to produce more power and torque.

Looks:

The M2 has new design cues to make it stand out from its little brother the M235i. Large air intakes at the front, new front and rear bumpers, four exhaust pipes and M3/M4 wheels make the car have a stance that is more aggressive and intimidating than any other 2 Series. Inside the interior looks very similar to the M235i but with subtle changes that differentiate the car between the M235i and itself.

Verdict:

The M2 comes just in time to join the fight between the updated Mercedes A45, and Audi’s RS3. Even though the car is not a hatchback, the previous 1M was pitted against the RS3 and it was an interesting fight. The M2 brings an undeniable presence to the playing field, its RWD set up may make it the most fun out of the three. Let the games begin.